B.C.-Alberta feud a concern for Shuswap boat rental operations

Pipeline politics said to be more discouraging to Alberta tourists than cost of fuel

While prices at the pumps have hit record highs in some parts of B.C. – before the summer tourist season has even begun – Shuswap boat rental operators say the impact on the price of boat gas has been more moderate than expected.

Mike Helfrick, owner of Sicamous’ Red’s Rentals, which opened for the season on May 15, said he was able to start the summer offering boat gas for five cents less than what it cost at the same time last year.

Helfrick noted the carbon tax, which increased on April 1, did not raise the cost of his initial fuel delivery as much as he expected, adding the price of fuel generally rises for the peak tourist season from June to August.

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Much of Red’s fleet of rental boats and jet-skis has not been pre-booked for the May long weekend, but he attributed that to rain in the forecast rather than people balking at the cost of fuel.

Kim Karampelas, the owner of Sea-Dog Rentals, which operates off of Salmon Arm’s Marine Park wharf, shared Helfrick’s optimism but noted the risks of customers opting for shorter rentals or not coming at all.

The season is just starting for Sea Dog as well. Karampelas said May 14’s only customers, a group of Australians, didn’t seem phased by the price of fuel.

Karampelas said boaters recognize the price to purchase gas on the water will be above what it costs at the pumps on land, but wondered if Albertans, who make up a sizable part of their boat rental clientele, will make a trip when there is such a disparity of fuel costs between the two provinces.

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Colleen Anderson, operations manager of Sicamous-based Waterway Houseboats, said bookings from Albertans are down, but it is the smouldering feud between the two provinces over the Trans-Mountain Pipeline – more than the price of fuel –that is keeping them away.

“We’re open for business and we want to see everyone here and enjoying the summer,” Anderson said

“People should be allowed to come here and enjoy it and spend their tourism dollars here and not feel that they’re being gouged or disrespected over the pipeline.”

Although bad blood over opposition to the pipeline is keeping some Albertans away, Anderson said an explanation of the fuel price disparity would be helpful. She noted that a resolution which originated in the Sicamous Council chambers where she holds an elected seat has gone forward to the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) requesting an explanation for the high prices.

Karampelas expressed optimism that the allure of Shuswap Lake would overcome the cost of fuel and keep boats on the water even if prices don’t fall.

“Loyal people that always come here, they come regardless, this is where they want to be for the Summer.”


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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